It was midway through the 2009 season when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was asked to name the most important player on the Eagles’ offense.
Although DeSean Jackson was in the midst of a record-setting season, rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was making plays, and two-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters protected McNabb’s blindside, the Eagles quarterback chose center Jamaal Jackson.
Jackson was lost for the season a few weeks later with an ACL tear, and McNabb spent the final two games of the season–both miserable losses to the Dallas Cowboys–running for his life. Jackson missed 15 of the 16 games in 2010 with a torn triceps injury, and new quarterback Michael Vick spent much of the season running for his life.
And now, in a shocking move, the Eagles have named sixth-round draft pick Jason Kelce as their starting center for the 2011 season.
Kelce beat out nine-year veteran Jamaal Jackson, who is the only remaining player from the Eagles’ Super Bowl team in 2004.
The 31-year old Jackson opened training camp as the team’s starter. But new offensive line coach Howard Mudd likes quicker, more athletic offensive lineman, and as camp wore on, Kelce found himself taking more and more of the first-team reps at center.
With Kelce starting at center and first-round draft pick Danny Watkins starting at right guard, the Eagles will attempt to become the first team since the 2005 Patriots to reach the postseason with two rookies starting on the offensive line.
It’s just the third time in the last 60 seasons that the Eagles have used two rookies on their offensive line, and it means that left tackle Jason Peters is the only member of the 2010 Eagles who will continue to start at the same position on the offensive line–Herremans switched to right tackle, free agent signing Evan Mathis is the left guard, Kelce is the center, and Watkins is the right guard.
Personally, I don’t like the move of Kelce starting over Jackson. Jackson is a seasoned veteran and knows the Eagles inside and out. Kelce is a rookie who doesn’t have many options to turn to if he has questions during a game.
The Eagles are rushing Kelce. If he earns the job based on poor play by Jackson, I’m all for it, but I don’t see any need for the Eagles to use a rookie center to help protect their new $100 million quarterback.